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Children’s Learning and Development Benefits from High-Quality Early Care and Education: A Summary of the Evidence

Research BriefEarly ChildhoodNov 8 2023

The majority of children from birth to age 5 in the United States regularly attend ECE programs.1,2 There are many types of ECE in the United States. Some are publicly funded, such as the federal Head Start and Early Head Start programs and state-funded pre-kindergarten. Others are privately funded community-based businesses such as home-based and center-based child care. Given the substantial time that young children spend in ECE, it is important that parents and policymakers understand how ECE supports children’s development and learning. In this brief, we summarize the research evidence on how high-quality ECE benefits all young children, as well as key subgroups, such as children who are dual language learners and children with disabilities. We also explain the specific features of high-quality ECE that research finds are most important for children’s development. Finally, we provide details about the research evidence summarized in this brief.

This brief is part of the Child Care and Early Education Policy and Research Analysis (CCEEPRA) project. CCEEPRA supports policy and program planning and decision-making with rigorous, research-based information.


1 Hardy, E. & Park, J. (2022). 2019 NSECE snapshot: Child care cost burden in U.S. households with children under age 5. OPRE Report No. 2022-05, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

2 National Center for Education Statistics (n.d.). Fast facts: Child care. Institute of Education Sciences. https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=4.